Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
Arjun Sampath, raised between Southern California and suburban Chicago, is the Indian-American founder of Soma Ayurvedic, a luxury Ayurvedic skincare and beauty company.
After spending 10 years in the consumer products industry, Arjun decided to go soul-searching for what he really wanted to do, reevaluating what he strives to bring to the consumer space and how he wants to make a significant impact. Below, Arjun shares what he found.
Tell me the process of how and why you created Soma Ayurvedic.
AS: “When I left my corporate career and was consulting for startups, I made a series of trips to India, where I traversed the entire subcontinent from the north, where our saffron comes from, to Kerala, which is where the majority of our materials/ingredients are sourced. I met suppliers, learned the science, and partnered with an Ayurvedic doctor who worked with us on the formulas. It was epiphonic, revitalizing, rejuvenating and energizing.
I would formulate products there and bring them back to the States. Over time, the feedback from family and friends got really good. I was able to hone in on three hero products: our Anti-Aging Cream with aloe vera and saffron ($68), our Under Eye Gel with lavender, moringa and avocado ($98), and our Vitamin C Serum with citrus and rose ($118). At that point, we did our first production run and launched the brand. I was literally going to yoga studios and passing out products to anybody who would accept a package. This brand had a really humble beginning.”
What was your intention in founding Soma Ayurvedic?
AS: “I wanted to bring Ayurveda to the States in a meaningful, consumer-friendly, minimalist way. I never thought I’d be a skincare or beauty entrepreneur, but I felt the first logical iteration and platform was skincare that's topical, because American consumers are already looking for a more holistic product. Ayurveda gives you that.
Ayurveda is the oldest continually practiced form of medicine in the world. It was born in Kerala, which is why we went there to meet the farmers and the suppliers. We wanted to make sure that the science, the tradition and the legacy was left in place.”
What was the thought process behind the name?
AS: “Soma means holy elixir in Sanskrit. We wanted something that really symbolizes the ancient origins, and from a consumer standpoint, I wanted a name that was easy to pronounce for the Western consumer. It was very important to me that we keep ‘Ayurvedic’ in the title – I wanted to lean into that word, to mainstream it and not shy away from it.”
How was Ayurveda introduced to you when growing up?
AS: “It began as simple as ‘you need to take a turmeric supplement everyday,’ and my mom putting castor oil in my hair. As I got older, I suffered from chronic allergies and sinus infections, and I got really tired of getting steroid shots and antibiotics four times a year. I started reading up on Ayurveda and seeing how adaptogenic capsules in the morning – ashwagandha, moringa, neem – or using the neti pot, can be incredible for so many ailments and issues. Ayurveda helped me undergo a true health transformation. It’s something holistic that’s been around for ages, and I wanted to share that.”
On the website, you write how important it is for the brand to be in good relationship with the community that's providing these ingredients/materials. Tell me more.
AS: “We want to build this brand with a social mission tied to it. Since we're proudly made in India, we wanted to make sure to give back to the producer community by working with organizations/NGOs that are firmly vetted. When you send them money, you are providing a better education and school supplies to less privileged communities. Even though we're a small company, we want to do something meaningful. So for every sale, we make a donation to some great NGOs that are known for having the lowest overhead and the most impact. As the business grows, the donation grows.”
How are sustainable production & ethical manufacturing maintained within your brand?
AS: “We work with an outstanding manufacturer in Kerala. When I went there, I met the whole family. They've been doing this for about 50 years. And we clicked instantly. I got to meet the suppliers and the farmers, and it just felt right and natural. From a sustainability standpoint, we don't want to put pesticides in the ground, and we don't want to have practices that are harmful to the earth and the workers. We also have an Ayurvedic doctor we work with in India, and one of my advisors here is a Western trained scientist, who helped us with quality, making sure everything's safe, pathogen testing, raw material testing, etc.”
What do you hope people will take away from Soma Ayurvedic?
AS: “I want people to notice that we’re more than just the products we sell – we firmly believe we have the best products in the world, the best ingredients, the best formulations, and that we're going to make a difference on your skin and your body.
But more importantly, we want people to feel a connection to our brand. We want everything to be intentional and transparent, where people can very easily find out who owns the brand, who runs the show, and where we’re based. We want them to feel like they're part of the community.”
What moves you? Where does your inspiration come from?
AS: “What inspires me the most is my grandfather, Vasan Srinivasan. He always told me: ‘you have to do something you're passionate about. You have the privilege, you were born here.’ He was a civil engineer from India, who immigrated at age 40 with his wife and 2 kids to Los Angeles in May of 1970. When they came to America, there was no Hindu Temple in Southern California, so he set out to build one to unite the Indian, Hindu community. He went through the yellow pages, calling every person with an Indian last name to ask for donations. Over the next 5 years, he led the fundraising and construction of the temple, which brought together the Indian community and at that time was the largest Hindu Temple in America!
He was never a man of great wealth, but he was a man of incredible ambition. He really urged me to start my own business by doing something meaningful and tied to my roots in India, and do what I’m passionate about. Unfortunately he passed away before we launched, but I want to leave my mark of Ayurveda in this city of Los Angeles, that's so dear to me, in the same way he did. Every time I see people post about the Malibu Temple, I feel proud.”
What are your hopes for the future of Soma Ayurvedic?
AS: “I want Soma Ayurvedic to not just be one of the great Ayurvedic brands, but one of the great consumer brands. When you look at Ayurvedic representation, very little of it is minority and/or South Asian owned. I want to do something outside of the whitewashing that usually takes place. We want to be authentically ayurvedic, but we also want to be very accessible. That's how I blended my experiences of being an American-Indian into the brand itself. You are going to see us making some very unique products in peripheral categories, all birthed from ayurvedic practices. Our motto is GOODNESS FROM INDIAN FOREST, and we will always stay true to that.”
Want to know more about Soma Ayurvedic take on beauty and skincare? Discover the brand’s latest magical products on their website and on Instagram too! Once you catch a whiff of the mood-enhancing jasmine body oil, I promise you’ll never go back.
Have a founder you’d like us to interview next? Let us know: